Justin Amash’s Michigan Primary Battle Is One for the Soul of the GOP

Cathy Reisenwitz

5/12/2014 12:01:00 AM - Cathy Reisenwitz

Think of every area where the GOP has strayed from its conservative roots. The bailouts. TARP. Out-of-control government spying. Job-killing corporate cronyism. There is one man in Congress consistently saying “no” to making government bigger and less accountable. His name is Justin Amash, and the establishment has taken notice.

Big business wants to ensure voters elect Republicans who will keep the perks flowing -- from taxpayers’ bank accounts and right to their pockets. They’ve even created a feel-good way to describe such a Republican: Pro-business. And that’s exactly the kind of guy they’ve found in Amash’s primary challenger. Amash goes up against Brian Ellis in August. And while Ellis’ platform should make conservatives cringe, he supports unconstitutional spying and Common Core, it’s his love for corporate welfare which has big business on board, in a big way.

How big? Let’s look at who’s on board the Ellis train. So far he’s gotten hefty checks from the Meijers family, owners of the massive Midwest supermarket chain, the political arms of Home Depot, Dow Chemical and the International Franchise Association, the Business-Industry Political Action Committee, the Association for Advanced Life Underwriters, and the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue is on board, as well as former Michigan congressman Steve LaTourette.

For a Republican primary, this kind of money and interest from business is nearly unheard of. So why so much interest from the Michigan business community in defeating Amash? Donohue summed it up well, in describing his motivation for supporting Ellis. Apparently Amash has been “unhelpful.”

What does “unhelpful” look like when you’re talking about a politician “helping” the business community? Dr. Tom Borelli did a great job looking into just that for The Blaze.

Tom Donohue and Steve LaTourette work for Michigan businesses. There are literally millions of dollars on the line for these businesses every time a stimulus, gasoline tax or research grant bill comes up for a vote.

GE, for example, received over $100 million in grants from the $787 billion stimulus bill. And for GE, big government is the gift that keeps on giving. Despite earning just over $16 billion in 2012, the company is still getting grant money from the federal government.

In 2013, the Department of Energy (DOE) continued to shower GE with taxpayer money. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) branch of the DOE awarded GE with just over $11 million in grants to conduct basic research on projects ranging from batteries to natural gas vehicles to wind turbine research this year. These funds were in addition to other grants from prior years.

That’s not all. The DOE is funding development of new vehicle technologies through another source – Advanced Vehicle Power Technology Alliance – and GE’s getting a $1.7 million piece of the $45 million pie. Caterpillar, Ford, 3M Company and General Motors are also cashing in on DOE’s generosity.

Finally, GE is getting about another $7 million from an $84 million bucket of taxpayer cash just announced in November, for two research projects related to carbon capture technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Big businesses like GE, not to mention Michigan’s powerful labor unions, cannot afford to let small-government types elect principled Republicans without a fight. There’s too much of your money at stake.

But that doesn’t mean the fight is over. Big business might be in Ellis’ corner, but small-government freedom fighters are backing Amash. Anti-cronyism crusaders from the Koch Brothers to the Club for Growth to Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are throwing money at Amash’s campaign. Individual libertarians are giving as well, such as the DeVos family. In addition, several small-government Republican congressmen have contributed to his campaign, including Reps. Trey Gowdy (S.C.), Raul Labrador (Idaho), Mick Mulvaney (S.C.) and Tim Huelskamp (Kansas). Even liberal law firm DLA Piper is contributing because of Amash’s staunch defenses of Americans against unconstitutional secret spying by the Obama Administration.

The Republican Party is at a critical moment with the Amash primary. We can be honest with ourselves for a moment. Many of our representatives in Congress have totally betrayed their small-government ideals and ignored their promises to cut spending and shrink the size and scope of government. For too many congresspeople, the temptation to kowtow to business interests by keeping the corporate welfare flowing is simply too great.

Justin Amash is a rare Republican. When a bill comes up with expands government, he’s a consistent “no” vote. Donohue and LaTourette absolutely correct that that makes him “unhelpful” to businesses used to sucking on the government teat. Government’s job isn’t to help businesses. It’s to get out of the way so the market can work.

There’s a reason Amash voted against his own party more than any other House Republican, and tied for second overall in party dissent. He didn’t betray his party. His party consistently betrays us, on behalf of big business.

Establishment Republicans have a lot to lose by ticking off corporate interests. That’s why they don’t do it much. The only recourse voters have is at the ballot box. Electing Justin Amash isn’t about one Republican versus another in Michigan. It’s about voters telling the GOP establishment that they have more than just big business to answer to regarding whose interests they’re representing. Electing Justin Amash will remind them that they must represent everyday American voters as well.